If you are looking for a career in a medical setting where you will not be required to go through several years of school and training, learning how to become a pharmacy technician might be one of the best options for you.
- Career Overview
A pharmacy technician is someone who works in a pharmacy under the supervision of a pharmacist. These technicians are tasked to dispense prescription drugs as well as medical devices to patients together with the instructions on how to use them.
As a pharmaceutical technician, you may be assigned to do administrative duties such as evaluating prescription requests with doctors and other insurance companies.
There is a significant increase in the demand of pharmacy technicians due to a rapid growth of the pharmaceutical industry. Because of this, a lot of people are aspiring to become a pharmaceutical technician. Here are ways in order to become one:
- Study Relevant Subjects in High School
The only official educational requirement for one to become a pharmacy technician is to have completed a high school diploma or a GED and be at least 18 years of age. But it is still best that you begin acquiring knowledge necessary in becoming a pharmacy technician.
While in high school and still earning your diploma, it is best that you take courses focused in mathematics, chemistry, health and sciences. These subjects are very relevant and will provide you basic knowledge needed in your future career as a pharmacy technician. It is also a benefit for you to learn medical terminologies that are used in the profession.
- Complete a Certification Program
Taking a certification program is not compulsory. But almost all of the employers will be requiring their applicants to have undergone a proper educational foundation. The educational requirement may vary from state to state, so it is a must that you check the prerequisites declared by the state board or pharmacy in the place where you would want to practice.
Some states may require aspirants to have a vocational or associate degree that will take around a year, while some would accept specific hours in a certification program. There are many schools that provide extensive pharmacy technician programs that may take you 1 to 2 years consisting of classroom lectures and laboratory work.
On the other hand, there are also pharmacy technician training programs that differ slightly to the school programs. In this program, students are taught on several subjects included in the course outline of extensive school programs. This includes mathematics, pharmaceutical filing and studies on medical terminologies.
Most of these programs also offer internship programs. In these programs prospective technicians are given the opportunity to shadow experienced technicians and will have the benefit to be exposed to the actual tasks that are done inside the pharmacy. Internship programs are not necessary for you to become a pharmacy technician, but will definitely give weight to your credentials when applying for a job.
- Get Relevant Experience
It is best for you to have gained relevant experiences after you completed your certification exam or while completing it. You can start working as a part-time pharmacy assistant. Typically, pharmacy assistants are not required to have a formal degree or qualifications. An assistant’s task is less complex than those of the technicians, mostly; you will be handling clerical duties such as operating the cash register, taking phone calls and working on stock shelves.
These experiences are not a prerequisite, depending on your state, for you to become a pharmacy technician but will help you to easily land on your first job.
- Get Certified
After completing a school education or training program, you may now take the certification exam. The certification exam is voluntary, but will definitely convince employers that you have a formal education and have consistent knowledge and skills appropriate for the position you are applying.
1. Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam
There are two certifying bodies that give out certification exams. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) administers the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE). This examination allows technicians to work efficiently with pharmacists in providing reliable, safe and useful services to patients. Here are the eligibility requirements stated by the PTCB:
- Aspirants must have obtained a High School Diploma or GED.
- Must not have criminal convictions.
- Must not have been involved in drug-related convictions including misbehavior.
- Must not have admitted misconduct and violations of the regulations of any Pharmacy State Board; and
- Must not have any revocation or restriction of license by any Pharmacy State Board.
The exam consists of 90 multiple choice questions, which assesses the critical knowledge of pharmacy technicians. The exam includes questions concentrating three areas: assisting the pharmacist in serving patients (66 percent of the exam), maintaining medication and inventory control systems (22 percent) and participating in the administration and management of pharmacy practice (12 percent).
This exam costs $129, which is usually refunded by employers and is distributed by over 220 Pearson VUE test centers.
2. Exam for Certification of Pharmacy Technicians
The other one is the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technician (ExCPT) which is offered by the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT). ICPT is a private organization which is managed by a group of pharmacists.
The ExCPT is a computer-based examination consisting of 110 multiple choice questions, 100 of which involves question on the three general areas. These areas include Regulations and Technician Duties, Drugs and Drug Products and the Dispensing Process. The prerequisites of this exam are the same as those of the PTCE.
Both exams, after passing, provide the applicants the right to use the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).
- Start Your Pharmacy Technician Career
After passing the certification exam and obtaining your Certified Pharmacy Technician title it is now the time to look for potential employers. You have a lot of places to choose from. You may first apply as a technician in retail stores, hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, insurance companies, pharmaceutical organizations and manufacturers.
You may also search for available positions such as viewing pharmacy job boards, applying online or applying personally to prospective clients.
- Continuing Education
It is also necessary that you keep up with the continuity of education and re-certify every two years in order for you to continue practicing your profession as a pharmacy technician. Continuity of education will help you to stay on top and become more competitive giving you a greater chance in getting a well-paid position. It will also give you knowledge on the rapid changes of medicines and operations involving pharmaceutical practices.
The process on how to become a pharmacy technician is slightly easier compared to other medical-related profession. The increasing demand for pharmacy technicians also influenced the desire of many people to enter the profession. Similar to any job, hard work and perseverance will definitely make you on top of everyone else.
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